Mission To Kgwakgwe

We left off in August 1824 with the Rev. Robert Moffat's party having received a regal welcome at Kgwakgwe in keeping with Makaba II’s openly stated desire that his visit should open the door to others who had previously avoided his country, based on the disinformation of hostile neighbours and exiled internal opponents.

In this respect what is sometimes ignored is that Moffat was accompanied by a sizable party of Berganaar Griqua, led by their Kaptyn (clan leader/chief) Barend Barends, who had come on his own diplomatic initiative to overcome the legacy of mistrust between his followers, by then already allies of the Batlhaping, and the Bangwaketse.

As a by-then important middleman in the trans-Gariep or Orange River trade in game products to the Cape Colony, Barends, like Makaba, had a material interest in establishing direct trade links with Gangwaketse.

As with the Scottish missionary, the Griqua Kaptyn had thus shown steadfast desire to reach the Bangwaketse Kgosikgolo, despite vigorous efforts on the part of the Barolong, as well as Batlhaping, to discourage him from proceeding:

“[Barolong Kgosi] Tawana was extremely reluctant that we should proceed to the Bangwaketse.

He had introduced to me one of Makaba’s wives, who had fled with her two sons [i.e. Tshosa, Segotshane], one of whom was afterwards, like Absalom, slain by the warriors of his father for treason.

The mother of this enterprising character was a fine looking, matronly woman.  After having satisfied myself about the propriety of proceeding, I resolved on leaving with my small party, expecting that the [Griqua] hunters would take another course, as they had their fears, that what everybody said about Makaba must be true.

However, all in-yoked their oxen at the same time, and the cavalcade began to move towards the Bangwaketse country.”

Makaba immediately welcomed Barends’ desire to barter for ivory and other game products, which he possessed in abundance through the collection of tribute and his periodic organisation of communal hunts or letsholo.

In keeping with protocol, he announced he would convene a trading parley with the Griqua. From Moffat’s account:

 “I made him [Makaba] a present of beads and buttons, with a number of other trinkets; and also gave him a hat.

 One of the Griqua directed him to put it on his head, which he did, but immediately removed it to the head of another, saying that he could not see its beauty on his own.

As most of the Griqua had come to barter, he informed them that on Friday they should come.”

 At the time and, indeed for many decades thereafter, the processing and sewing of wild animal skins into karosses was a principal domestic industry amongst the Bangwaketse and their Bakwena neighbours; its ultimate decline being a result of 1930s colonial regime measures that undermined local production to promote labour migration.

Makaba’s own early morning routine was described as being generally spent overseeing kaross production, as well as the tanning of hides, before proceeding to Kgotla.   

In addition to his strategic calculations in terms of trade and reconciling with neighbouring merafe against emerging threats, Makaba had a personal motive for his warm welcome of Moffat, whom he addressed as “Tsala-ya-moeng”.

As the missionary would eventually come to know, the Kgosikgolo had all along shadowed his rebellious heir Tshosa with spies, who had thus been able to inform him of the missionary’s earlier warning to the prodigal son to desist from his plots and lies against his father and king (the word Moffat himself used).

According to Moffat, on his second day at Kgwakgwe he, along with Barends and company, sat down to have the first of several public conversations with Makaba.  Initial greetings were followed by a long discussion about the “Mantatee” invasion.

At the time, “Mantatee” was commonly used by Makgoa as a collective term to describe the disruptive influx of groups such as the Baphuting, Bahlakwana and Bafokeng, who had recently threatened Moffat’s mission station at Kuruman/Kudumane along with the adjacent Batlhaping at Dithakong.

By the time of the visit, Bafokeng bagaPatsa and Bataung had merged to form the “Bakololo”, who were understood as constituting a new and more formidable “Mantatee” threat.

Here it may be noted that while it is likely that the term “Mantatee”, as it was then used by Europeans, had its origin in the fierce reputation of the Motlokwa queen MmaNtatisi, her mephato did not actually number amongst the Makgoa’s so-called Mantatees.

What the Bakololo and similar groups at the time had in common was their flight from their abodes in the region immediately north of the Gariep in the face of constant raiding by gun-wielding brigands of various origin.

As the Bakololo leader, Sebetwane, is credited with having told his followers before their migration to Bokone, the northern lands of Masilo a Matsieng:

“My masters, you see that the world is collapsing.  We shall be eaten up one by one. Our fathers taught us peace means prosperity, but today there is no peace, no prosperity! Let us march!”

Editor's Comment
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